Q: I’m getting married in a month and I’m concerned about what my married friends have been telling me. Most of them seem to think it’s impossible to maintain a passionate marriage over the long haul. I don’t want my friends to negatively influence me, but I also want to have realistic expectations about marriage. Are my fiancé and I doomed to a passionless marriage?
~Erica, Santa Fe
A: Congratulations on your upcoming marriage, and thank you for raising this important issue, an issue that many couples face—how to keep passion alive over the long haul.
There are three points that you should be aware of when it comes to passion and desire.
Relationship Help: 3 Points to Remember about Passion and Desire
1. The intense, passionate fervor that engulfs many new relationships does fade over time, and what once seemed effortless and spontaneous now may require work and planning. Couples get into trouble when their expectations about what passion should look like stems mainly from the first two years of their relationship.
It’s also important to note that the level of passion and desire that you and your spouse share will probably be different from what your friends (and others in general) experience. If you judge the health of your marriage or sex life by comparing yourself to others, you might be inadvertently ignoring the unique rhythms and strengths of your own relationship.
2. Passion and desire are fragile and can easily buckle under stress and the pressures of daily living. Many of the couples I work with report that as the stress of work, parenting, finances, etc. increase in their lives, their libido takes a nose-dive. An over-scheduled, stressful life can often lead to a passionless marriage.
While daily life won’t allow us to avoid all stress, buffering your marriage/relationship from unnecessary stress should be a priority—especially if you want to keep passion and desire alive.
3. The responsibilities of commitment and emotional sharing are not always passion-friendly.
In her book, Mating in Captivity, Esther Perel explores the dynamics of desire in long-term, committed relationships. One of the important points she makes is that the conditions needed for couples to experience a sense of emotional security can inadvertently rob the relationship of a sense of adventure and excitement.
So at times the predictability and security that couples seek can be at odds with the conditions that fuel passion and desire. Think of these two relationship dimensions (security/predictability versus desire/passion) as existing at opposite ends of a continuum: When you create the conditions that only nurture one end of the continuum and neglect the other end, something gets lost. This is a challenge all couples in committed, long-term relationships face.
Awareness of these three passion points can prevent your marriage/relationship from getting stuck in the quicksand of a passionless existence.
I’ve created a workbook that focuses exclusively on giving couples tools needed to keep passion and intimacy alive. Check out my Sex in Marriage Ebook.
Wishing you and your relationship all the best,
Dr. Rich Nicastro